Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lazy-Ass Librarian Saturday: Beware the homosexual agenda!

Wow! God is so pissed off at us over the marriage thing that He smote this nice couple's wedding. Very impressive! I can't wait until the annual World Homosexual Agendakeepers Awards to see who will receive the prestigious Platinum Toasteroven for this epic feat.

I went through a couple of storms like this when I was growing up in Phoenix. Watching the coming dust storm approach is an awesome sight indeed. Now, alas, these storms come way more often.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Equal marriage rights? Special rights? How about NO rights?

A few days ago over at Bilerico, Alex Blaze reported on three Marines who received bad-conduct discharges for committing fraud against the United States.

Here are the facts according to the LA Times, which first reported this development: Corporal Ashley Vice, Cpl. Jeremiah Griffin and Cpl. Joseph Garner served at Camp Pendleton, California in the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Corporal Vice is a lesbian; her partner, Jaime Murphy, is a civilian.

Unmarried couples, whether gay or straight, are not allowed to live together on base. Married couples can live on or off the base. If they elect to live off the base, they are eligible for a $1,200 housing allowance.

Naturally, Vice and Murphy wanted to live together, and they needed the married-housing allowance to make it happen. But the federal Defense of Marriage Act limits marriage -- and its accompanying benefits -- to heterosexual couples only. Therefore, even after the demise of don't ask/don't tell, Vice and Murphy could not claim the housing allowance.

Knowing this, Vice and Murphy found two male Marines -- Corporals Griffin and Garner -- who were willing to marry them. The women would then both be in opposite-sex marriages and could receive the married-housing allowance.

The military determined that the three Marines had committed fraud by representing themselves as married to get the housing benefit, and all three were discharged for bad conduct. In addition, the men were fined $5,000 apiece and got three to six months in the slammer. Murphy, a civilian, was not subject to military authority and was not sanctioned.

Now, here's a bit of a twist: The Associated Press version of the story, which is being used by just about everybody, contains a critical ambiguity: 
Three San Diego Marine corporals have been discharged for bad conduct after admitting they faked their marriages to receive housing allowances. . . . Vice has previously said in media coverage that she and her partner were forced to enter sham marriages because they couldn't afford to live off base without the extra money. (emphasis provided)
So which is it? Did the Marines actually get married, or did they just say they did?  Did they forge documents and lie under oath in order to get the allowance? Or did they enter into legal marriages for reasons of convenience? The distinction matters. People who lie about whether they're married should get penalized, even if the law they are trying to circumvent is unjust.

(By the way, I also have a problem with AP's headline, duplicated over and over again by news outlets::  "Three California Marines discharged after faking marriages." Assuming that the Marines did legally marry, they didn't fake anything.  Indeed, the marriages are probably still valid, even if they were a sham.* Saying the marriages were "faked" strikes me as unfairly biased. And unfortunately, even HuffPo repeated the language.)

Assuming the couples actually married -- and that seems to be true here -- the case has intriguing implications for gay-marriage jurisprudence if a similar fact pattern lands in an appellate court.

Think, for a minute, about the oft-heard, right-wing sound bite: "Gays can already marry. They just have to marry a person of the opposite sex. Gays shouldn't ask for special rights."  (I know, I know, I don't buy it either.)

But do we have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex? For those of us in the military, maybe not. An "out" lesbian or gay man who weds someone of the opposite sex would be in a sham marriage, almost by definition. Such a marriage subjects the participants to bad-conduct discharge, fines, and even jail.

So if you're gay and you're in the military, here is your full panoply of marriage options:
(a) Don't get married, or
(b) Marry someone of the opposite sex and land in the pokey.

Some choice, huh?

*Wikipedia says so. Wikipedia is not worthy of citation if you're writing a brief. But it's okie dokey on this blog.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's not always about the politics.

Okay, so I was reading a discussion thread on about the "war on Christianity." (yes, it's just about that time of year again). But that's not the subject of my post today. Within the thread I was delighted to find this little bit of dialog. By the way, I am not questioning the sincerity of any of the participants, or their good intentions. 
 ROBERT:  What non-evangelical Christians disapprove of is the appalling ignorance,narrow-mindedness,intolerance and self-righteousness of so many Christians. Their terrible hostility to gay people and blindly irrational fear of the entirely imaginary "sinister gay agenda" to "recruit" children in schools and "corrupt their morality and morality in general.
And the appalling hypocrisy of the anti-choice movement ,which is determined to force poor women to give birth to children they would never be able to support or give birth even if a pregnancy would kill them or ruin their health, or a pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. And the movement's total lack of concern for children who HAVE been born.
ANN: I feel sorry for you with the fullness of my Christian heart. You live in the narrow confines of your groins and see me through the filth, stench and darkness of your groins.
Believe me I could never hate you but pray for you to come out of the hell you insist to dwell in, breathe in some fresh air; see the glory of God's light He created for you too to enjoy. Give yourself the chance to be healthy and joyous as God intended you to be.
DEAN: I'm pretty sure Robert only has one groin.
I've been debating whether to post this -- I try not to make fun of anyone except myself, but this is so sweetly funny in its own twisted way that I couldn't resist. If you think I'm over the line, I hope you'll tell me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time to get your purple on!

Tomorrow is Spirit Day --  a spin-off of the It Gets Better Project in support of LGBT youth who are being bullied because of their sexual orientation or identity. The Project, as I'm sure readers know, started in response to a tragic series of suicides by LGBT kids after being tormented at school.

Naive as I am, I hoped the bullying and the suicides would stop once the Project gained legs and took off. Alas, I was wrong. It's still happening.

Someday, maybe Spirit Day will just be a fun, gay day to wear purple. For now, though, I pray that when our kids leave the house for school tomorrow, they look around and see support wherever they turn.

Wear purple. Please.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Death, Relapse and Triggers.

I paced slowly behind my students, all focused on the computer screens in front of them, intent on the legal research problems I had assigned. One of my students -- I wasn't sure of her name -- was unusually quiet. "Are you okay?" I asked.

"I'm just not feeling well," she said quietly. I told her to take care of herself and I think I touched her shoulder before I moved on to the next student.

That night, Melissa -- it turns out her name was Melissa -- committed suicide. I went to the funeral, partly out of duty and partly out of grief because I should have at least known her name. As I settled into the pew, I heard the first notes of the song her family had chosen -- "Angel," by Sarah McLachlan -- and I lost it. 

Several family members and close friends spoke; every word was steeped in grief and anger and frustration. It was clear that Melissa was surrounded by good people who loved her, and that she had reached out many times before. This time around, though, she had reached out to no one, to ensure her success. I cried through the entire service, so sorry that I hadn't known her better and so moved by her community. Yet in the following days, I discovered that I wanted to join Melissa, and that feeling lasted for months.

Sometime after that -- I really don't know how long -- I left my partner, and we moved into a place of our own. My sponsor, a brilliant physician, soon joined me in the condo; he had very little money after suffering through some tough medical issues. He was great with my kid and my dog, and it felt good to have recovery in the house. I was glad he was there, because at the time I was crippled by depression and dark thoughts.

One night I heard a crash in the living room. I found my dear sponsor naked, on the floor and unable to speak or walk. It looked like a stroke and I called 911.

Only, it wasn't a stroke. It was a hydrocodone overdose.

Of course, I had to ask him to leave.  For months afterwards, just like with Melissa, I wanted to climb into the abyss with him, to follow him to this liberating place of no accountability. And I was angry. Why the hell should he get to take this irresponsible, selfish path while I was stuck, sober, with the misery of the present?

A few weeks later, he texted me a suicide note. I did what I could, which wasn't much, and fortunately he didn't act on it. As far as I know, he's still out there somewhere, using, and there's nothing I can do now except await the final phone call.

I do miss my sponsor something fierce. I still rely heavily on the last suggestion he gave me when he saw how I interacted with my partner: He said, "Lynne, save yourself."

In the years since then, I've seen other deaths and other relapses. They've brought me sadness and gratitude and a myriad of other emotions, but none has affected me viscerally like Melissa's death, or my sponsor's relapse.

None, that is, until yesterday when I heard about Gary. Gary chose Melissa's path. It's the fourth pointless death in as many weeks in my little recovery community. I knew Gary, although we weren't close. I had watched him grow in sobriety over the years. I was angry and sad and confused, and again, part of me wanted to join him. Not like before, thank goodness. But it was there.

Ironic, isn't it? Just yesterday I blogged about the jagged beauty of watching someone move through hard times in sobriety, and how I add their experience to my store of faith for when I'm in trouble. But I was in trouble now, and I never gave that store of faith a single thought. To tell you the truth, not much crossed my mind at all. I was just pissed off, and terribly sad.

But I took action by rote. I went to a meeting and shared. I answered my phone when it rang. And I made a phone call of my own. although it probably wasn't the one I really needed to make.

I did the next right thing, and now I have another day.

Gary, you had a smile that could light up Yankee Stadium. I love you, my friend, and I'm going to miss you.

I know only one way to do your life justice. So in your memory, and Melissa's and Kevin's and Tom's and Dowman's, I'm going to save myself.

The Subversive Librarian, Whining.

Now, leaving a comment is easier than ever!

Here's the thing: I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing. I know you're reading my modest little blog and I adore you for it!

But gosh, it would be nice to get more comments. Without them, I get all insecure, and it's not pretty. Not pretty at all.

So, I tried to leave myself a comment the other day and guess what I discovered: it was a big pain in the ass. Maybe that's why, I thought to myself. So I've changed the settings to make things easier. Hopefully that was problem, and hopefully I've fixed it.

Of course, it could also be because I don't leave many comments for other bloggers, either. Like, you know, karma, man.

If that's not it, well, I'll just cry. Just cry, and cry, and cry.

So please, think about just leaving a little comment now and then, so I don't cry myself to sleep every night and end up with gooey snot all over my pillow and stuck in my hair.

Oh. And God bless us, everyone.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Faith that works in every situation.

It's a bittersweet truth of sobriety: When the worst happens, and I can no longer turn to my drug of choice, I must find some other way to survive the relentless pain. At those times when the darkness has threatened to consume me, I have relied, clung to, the experience of others who have gone through similar situations and somehow stayed clean.

The thing is, there is divine artistry in a person's ability to endure with gratitude and grace. It teaches me how to survive, yes; but it's more than that. To watch someone transcend tragedy and disappointment is to see god at work.

Once again, my good friend Mark King:

Playing the Last Scene of a Marriage

Monday, October 10, 2011

Say it Ain't So! The Subversive Librarian Becomes a Corporate Shill

Okay, so I've made it a practice to avoid product endorsement in my blog, especially when I'm not getting paid to do it. But here I am, endorsing an online app for personal finance.

Let me give you some background. In the past, I have had a little trouble managing my money. Okay, fine. I've had a lot of trouble.

Now, I'm not talking about problems like this: 
"Oh, Clark Howard, I love your show! Here's my question: I've saved up $250,000 over eight years while I worked my way through Harvard Medical School doing double shifts at McDonald's and cleaning houses on the side. Now that I've graduated, should I put that money into a self-directed individual retirement account or put it into a charitable split-interest trust?"
That there is what you call a Cadillac problem.

No, I'm afraid my money problems (all of my own making) are more of the Yugo variety. In other words, more like this:
"Hello, Georgia Power? Yeah, I just found this disconnect notice in my backpack from two weeks ago, and the deadline for payment was yesterday. I don't get paid for a week and a half. I have $16 in checking and there's probably a couple dollars of change in the car.... No, I really don't have $325. I get paid in a week and a half.... A check by phone? Now? Ummm..... Sure, okay." [Sigh. It may bounce, but at least it will buy me some time and keep the fridge running.]
I wish I was exaggerating. I just fished out my bank statements and tallied up all my overdraft charges for last year. It was bad, really bad. Someday I might tell you just how bad, but not today.

Anyway, I've been trying to get a handle on my finances for, well, pretty much forever. It's been an integral part of my struggle to recover from depression and the "ism" of addiction, and I haven't had much success.

After years of trying to wrap my head around the financial stuff, I heard about, which is basically a budgeting app that you can hook up to your bank account. It's free, and has great reviews. But it's not the product I'm endorsing. is a terrific product, but it doesn't partner with my bank. So the hell with them.

But I had to find a solution. My kid had gotten accepted into a really good, and really expensive, private college and I wasn't in a position to be much help. As has happened so often, I found strength to do things for her that I couldn't seem to do for myself. So I got rid of my car, pared down my expenses, and looked for a way to manage this monster.

In some moment of clarity (which, at the time, just seemed like pointless footwork), I found EEBA, which stands for Easy Envelope Budgeting Aid. Which, by the way, it isn't. Easy, I mean. But then, I'm pretty much on the short bus when it comes to money management.

EEBA is an online version of a low-tech gimmick: cashing your paycheck and putting all your money into budget envelopes. In EEBA, every time money comes in, the user allocates each dollar to a particular envelope: Housing, food, electric, entertainment, or whatever. This must be done in order to add money, so each paycheck is allocated immediately. Then, every time the user spends money,  she records it, thus taking it out of the appropriate envelope. When that envelope is empty, the amount budgeted for that item is gone.

The basic version of EEBA is free, but with only ten envelopes, I found it pretty useless. For five bucks a month, though, I get all the bells and whistles I need..

EEBA is a pain in the ass to learn, and it's probably pretty clunky as these things go. It took me hours and hours to set up, and at first every transaction took forever. Now, it hums along pretty good, although I do still lose track of cash if I'm not careful about entering transactions.

The results have been beyond dramatic. For one thing, I haven't had a single overdraft charges since I started using EEBA in May. That alone is amazing, for me. But there's more: Before I started using this system, I was hundreds of dollars in the hole every time I got paid. Now, I can comfortably pay my share of college costs each month -- $1,300 -- and tackle small unexpected expenses. And as I slowly clean up my financial wreckage of the past, I even have an occasional latte, guilt free.

That, my friends, is a miracle.

So call me a capitalist tool if you like. Perhaps I am. But I'm also within sighting distance of solvency for the first time in, well, ever.

First. Time  Ever.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Oh, God, I can't resist: Lily's Disneyland Surprise!

All right, I know I shouldn't do a Lazy Ass Librarian post so soon -- especially since I've been pretty unproductive lately, blog-wise. And -- as much as I love kids -- some cute-kid videos make me sort of queasy. But this one... honestly, this one is really quite special.

Please watch it all the way through. Seriously.


Monday, October 03, 2011

The topic is fear.

I do wish this was a post on right-wing extremism. Heaven knows, the title would fit.

But no; today the fear is of the personal, non-political variety. Fear, in dribs and drabs and occasional dollops, has returned to my life.

When I was drinking, fear enveloped me like a thick fog, or sometimes -- when nothing else seemed familiar -- like a warm, comfortable old blanket. I wrapped my days, my nights, my existence in it. At the end of my drinking fear became a straitjacket, and I was in solitary confinement.

Nothing in my life was exempt: Fear of driving. Fear of tornadoes. Fear of disease. Of nightmares, and of intruders. Fear of ghosts and nuclear war. Fear of fetal alcohol syndrome. Fear of dying. Fear of being frightened to death. Fear that I was insane. Fear of god and of satan, even though I didn't really believe in either one. And most of all, fear of being alone if any of these horrors came to pass.

When I heard thunder in the distance, I'd wonder if this was the storm that would finally bury me in rubble.  When I tried to drive, I knew any car on the road might be aiming for me. When I heard a jet engine overhead, I'd hold my breath until I was sure it wasn't a Soviet fighter plane. Sometimes I slept with lights or music on. Anything, anything to subdue all the terrifying thoughts that came with the darkness.

Just a few months before I quit drinking, my mother came to visit us in Schoolcraft, Michigan and she gave me a driving lesson on the surrounding rural roads. There was almost no traffic, but I was pretty sure that each car we encountered was a threat. Slightly exasperated, my mom finally said to me, "Lynne, honey, you've got to have a little faith!"

Back then it never occurred to me that my fear was connected to drinking, but when I began to work the steps, the fear began to dissipate. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being afraid of the things that used to immobilize me. Not only can I drive, I can drive on the expressway, during rush hour, in Atlanta. That really, truly is a miracle.

Lately, though, fear has returned with surprising strength. This time, it's fear of the consequences of my actions, of the wreckage of my past and what that wreckage might do to my daughter.

I've just been sued for twelve grand.

The details are still fuzzy, but it appears to be from an old debt. I've got an attorney and I'm gathering information. Whether or not it's legitimate,I don't know, but it escalated to a lawsuit because I didn't do some pretty damn simple things. Added to that are some soft rumblings that my new and perfect apartment may not be as permanent as I'd hoped. When blended with a healthy shot of self-loathing for every mistake I've ever made, the brew packs quite a punch.

At a conscious level, I know it'll all be fine, but that hasn't kept my mind from meandering down the path of disaster. The consequences are serious: Inability to pay my kid's tuition. Homelessness. Unemployment. Starvation. Whichever route the fear takes, its destination is the same: I'm never going to be a competent adult, not ever. I am failing Life.

Except now there's a difference: I've got a little of that faith my mother wanted for me. Whatever disasters befall me, I'll be all right, and so will my kid.. And as long as I do the next right thing now, that's true even if I did everything wrong yesterday. 

Today, I can sleep with the lights and the radio off. When life gets scary, like now, I don't have to run or hide from reality. I can pause and listen long enough to uncover the next right thing, and then take action. I have learned there is great power even in the tiniest of steps. And for that, I am very grateful.

But still kinda scared.